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There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafraby Chinua Achebe
Synopses & Reviews
From the legendary author of Things Fall Apart comes a longawaited memoir about coming of age with a fragile new nation, then watching it torn asunder in a tragic civil war
The defining experience of Chinua Achebe’s life was the Nigerian civil war, also known as the Biafran War, of 1967–1970. The conflict was infamous for its savage impact on the Biafran people, Chinua Achebe’s people, many of whom were starved to death after the Nigerian government blockaded their borders. By then, Chinua Achebe was already a world-renowned novelist, with a young family to protect. He took the Biafran side in the conflict and served his government as a roving cultural ambassador, from which vantage he absorbed the war’s full horror. Immediately after, Achebe took refuge in an academic post in the United States, and for more than forty years he has maintained a considered silence on the events of those terrible years, addressing them only obliquely through his poetry. Now, decades in the making, comes a towering reckoning with one of modern Africa’s most fateful events, from a writer whose words and courage have left an enduring stamp on world literature.
Achebe masterfully relates his experience, bothas he lived it and how he has come to understand it. He begins his story with Nigeria’s birth pangs and the story of his own upbringing as a man and as a writer so that we might come to understand the country’s promise, which turned to horror when the hot winds of hatred began to stir. To read There Was a Country is to be powerfully reminded that artists have a particular obligation, especially during a time of war. All writers, Achebe argues, should be committed writers—they should speak for their history, their beliefs, and their people.
Marrying history and memoir, poetry and prose, There Was a Country is a distillation of vivid firsthand observation and forty years of research and reflection. Wise, humane, and authoritative, it will stand as definitive and reinforce Achebe’s place as one of the most vital literary and moral voices of our age.
"Achebe's reminiscences of Biafra, a country whichthat spent the entirety of its brief existence, from 1967 to 1970, in civil war with Nigeria, result in an uneasy mix of history and memoir. After an insightful, masterful account of his education, his attention wavers between the individual and the international without settling on a steady tone. Readers will find his legendary gift with imagery in several poems, as well as in details such as Biafran citizens being warned against wearing the colorful clothing most visible to Nigerian bombers, a brilliantly selected example of war's reach into the previously mundane. But the narrative as a whole never coalesces, and after Biafra declares independence it keeps swinging abruptly between the trivial and the heart-stopping: Achebe never unpacks; he tries to stay alive; his wife employs men to redecorate. Nagging questions remain at the end about his stance towards the conflict, during which he served as cultural ambassador for Biafra, while a closing call for 'patriotic consciousness' to overcome Nigeria's current problems fails to convince. Only in a concluding poem does Achebe put his finger on the main theme of this stubbornly loyal celebration of unfulfilled possibility: 'haunted revelry.' Agent: Andrew Wylie, The Wylie Agency. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the legendary author of Things Fall Apartand#151;a long-awaited memoir of coming of age in a fragile new nation, and its destruction in a tragic civil war
For more than forty years, Chinua Achebe has maintained a considered silence on the events of the Nigerian civil war, also known as the Biafran War, of 1967and#150;1970, addressing them only obliquely through his poetry. Now, decades in the making, comes a towering account of one of modern Africaand#8217;s most disastrous events, from a writer whose words and courage have left an enduring stamp on world literature. A marriage of history and memoir, vivid firsthand observation and decades of research and reflection, There Was a Country is a work whose wisdom and compassion remind us of Chinua Achebeand#8217;s place as one of the great literary and moral voices of our age.
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